Dihua street. Oldest street in Taipei. Old money. Lots of it. Crouching tiger hidden dragon – meaning you would not know it if you weren’t told about it. Multi-millionaires, billionaires, and multi-billionaires walking amongst their employee hundred-thousand-aires, and the common, pedestrian ten-thousand-aires milling about grocery shopping or Chinese medicine seeking.
Old money I am not and old I was not when I was growing up in Taipei. I knew nothing and only now know but a little of the secrets of the street. What I know I learned and I absorbed from my father-in-law and mother-in-law, both of whom grew up in and around this street that predates modern Taipei.
They taught me about breakfast. Marlin rice noodles. The name of the place and the name of the breakfast item. One and the same. Marlin rice noodles opens only in the mornings. It occupies a space that makes hole-in-the-wall places look cavernous. Utilitarian. It serves its purpose of serving customers sitting between thin plasticky stools and ancient folding tables sitting themselves above the melting tarmac that must have been officially designated by the city as either a street or alley or lane – although I personally know it as the first gentle, slight right turn not long after you (or I) enter Dihua street.
Marlin rice noodles. Rice noodles cooked with not Atlantic but Pacific marlin. Ordinary rice noodles with a bite and this sublime, sweet-salty not-briny-or-fishy-but-just-a-little-of-both broth. The puddle that the rice noodles swam in looked more like water than soup. But it tasted like it came from another time. Not my time but the time of my father and mother. Perhaps even older. It tasted nothing like the Taipei I know. It tasted like the Taipei I wished I’d known.
They cook the crap out of the fish and garnish it with chives. Perfection.
They also offer an array of side dishes. Deep fried only; deep fried oysters, deep fried squid, deep fried squid-like squid, deep fried pork, deep fried tofu, and deep fried other things that I don’t recall. I got the pork.
Greasy crispy skin and juicy dense meat: beautiful. Spiked by ginger strings and sweetened by thick, sweet soy sauce: sexy. Tiny portion size: a tease.
Perfection. A gorgeous, sexy tease. A street traversed by hundreds who have billions. Marlin rice noodles on Dihua street.